QUEZON CITY – Hapee Fresh Fighters cruised to their 10th straight win to assume solo leadership of the 2014-2015 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup Thursday (January 15) at the Jesus Christ Saves Global Outreach (JCSGO) Gym by cutting down to size Jumbo Plastic Linoleum Giants, 82-56. Meanwhile, the battle for the remaining playoff spots intensified as Racal Motors Alibaba and Bread Story-Lyceum registered victories of their own.
Facing a fellow playoff-bound team in the Giants, the Fresh Fighters gave a glimpse of what they could do as they weathered another slow start to stage their vaunted scoring runs. Philip Paniamogan opened the second period with a triple to threaten, 19-21, but Hapee went on to unload 17 unanswered markers led by Ray Parks and Baser Amer and spiced up by a Chris Newsome dunk, 38-19.
As the Fresh Fighters continued to pound the Giants into submission, frustration set in as forward Harry Petilos was ejected for bumping a referee. Later in the third period, assistant coach Joel Dualan would get the boot due to two technical fouls for using profane language on the officials.
Newly activated guard Nico Elorde then clustered a triple and a field goal to give Hapee its biggest lead of the game, 76-37, with still 4:48 to play in the fourth period. Elorde took over the roster spot of center Arnold Van Opstal who sustained an injury to his Achilles tendon.
Despite falling behind by 39, the Giants still gave it a go as Joseph Terso and Marion Magat tried their best to make the final score more respectable by leading a 16-0 run, 53-76. The Giants dropped to 6-4 and remained in good playoff shape at Fourth Place.
After failing to hit twin digits for the first time in their last game against Racal Motors, Parks bounced back with 21 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in 22 minutes of play. Ola Adeogun came off the bench to pop in 11 points and eight rebounds.
No Jumbo Plastic player scored in twin digits, a testament to Hapee’s tournament-best defense of 57.5 points. Jaymo Eguilos paced the Giants with nine followed by Dennice Villamor with seven.
“This is a statement game for us,” said Coach Ronnie Magsanoc. “We are now facing the heavyweights and we want to give our best against fellow undefeated team Cagayan Valley in our final game.”
Racal Motors drew productive plays from new signees Mark Romero and Keith Agovida but it was old reliable Jeff Alvin Viernes who delivered the goods as they halted MJM M-Builders, 94-92. Both teams now tote similar 3-7 records with a glimmer of hope to sneak into the playoffs.
Immediately placed by Coach Carlos Garcia in the starting unit as a point forward, the ploy paid dividends with Romero accounting for eight quick points to give Racal Motors the first period, 22-19. The M-Builders recovered to tie the game by halftime, 46-46.
The game of runs saw Racal Motors with a ready answer to MJM’s repeated rallies and brief tastes of the lead. Agovida tied the game for the last time at 86-86 followed by the go-ahead basket by Jam Jamito with 1:21 remaining, 88-86.
Glenn Khobuntin then missed a combined three crucial free throws followed by a missed a triple that could have tied the game, with Viernes grabbing the defensive rebound plus the foul and two charity conversions at the seven-second mark, 94-89. A last-second triple by Mike Tolomia settled the final tally as MJM’s two-game winning streak ended while Racal Motors snapped their three-game losing skid.
Despite going scoreless in the opening canto, Viernes still powered Racal Motors with 22 points and nine assists. Jamito also had a superb effort with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Guards Tolomia and Gelo Alolino topped MJM with 22 and 21 points respectively. Tournament scoring leader Mac Belo (15.1 PPG) sat out the game to nurse his knee injury.
In the nightcap, Bread Story climbed into the playoff picture and dislodged idle Tanduay Light Rhum Masters via a methodical 104-85 demolition of cellar-dweller MP Hotel Warriors. The now 4-5 Bread Story holds a slim half-game lead over the 4-6 Rhum Masters.
Bread Story hardly felt the absence of injured top scorer Joseph Gabayni who badly hurt his ankle in their last outing versus Wang’s Basketball. The Warriors’ shallow roster finally gave in midway in the fourth period as Louie Vigil, Jiovani Jalalon and Jackson Corpuz took turns in stretching Bread Story’s margin.
“We still have two games left so we will take it one game at a time, especially our next game with Cebuana Lhuillier,” said Coach Bonnie Tan. “It will be a big achievement for the team to make the playoffs in our very first time to join the D-League.”
Jalalon led all scorers with 18 markers. Corpuz followed with 17 and Vigil 13.
Reden Celda topped the Warriors with 17 points. Wowie Escosio and Moncrief Rogade were next with 12 points each.
How They Scored:
RACAL MOTORS (94) – Viernes 22, Jamito 19, Romero 16, Ortuoste 8, Saitanan 6, Gabawan 5, Ibay 5, Agovida 5, Canta 3, DiGregorio 2, Gil 2, Ruaya 1.
MJM M-BUILDERS (92) – Tolomia 22, Alolino 21, Khobuntin 14, Mendoza 12, Neypes 8, Pogoy 6, Cruz 4, Jose 3, Perez 2, Alberto 0, Javelona 0.
Period Scores: 22-19, 46-46, 72-67, 94-92.
HAPEE (82) – Parks 21, Adeogun 11, Lanete 9, Rosario 7, Elorde 6, Hayes 6, Amer 5, Thompson 5, de la Cruz 5, Newsome 5, Sorela 2, Koga 0, Mendoza 0, Long 0.
JUMBO PLASTIC (56) – Eguilos 9, Villamor 7, Terso 6, Paniamogan 6, Maiquez 5, Magat 5, Sabellina 4, Javier 4, Cruz 3, Colina 3, Rosales 2, Tiongson 2, Rios 0, Petilos 0.
Period Scores: 21-16, 46-26, 68-37, 82-56.
BREAD STORY (104) – Jalalon 18, Corpuz 17, Vigil 13, Mbomiko 11, Bangga 10, Baltazar 9, Zamora 9, Gamboa 8, Bulawan 4, Daquioag 3, Taladua 2, Lao 0, Elmejrab 0.
MP HOTEL (85) – Celda 17, Escosio 12, Rogado 12, Jamon 11, Yaya 10, Allen 7, Collado 7, Quiro 6, Hainga 3, Landicho 0, Yusop 0, Palma 0.
Period Scores: 17-18, 45-39, 70-66, 104-85.